Friday, September 27, 2013

Pesto

Today the skies are gray, it's in the 50's and misting.

The potatoes are ready to harvest and the basil is still pumping out it's leaves of yumminess.


It's time to make one of my favorite fall recipes - Pesto Potatoes!

I make pesto without garlic and mostly by feel so there won't be a lot of measurements.  I like the rustic nature of just dumping in this and that, it's pretty forgiving as long as you keep the ratio of ingredients correct.

Pesto is all about the ingredients.  I say get the best you can afford.  You can only make pesto for a couple of months a year - splurge a bit on a tiny bottle of stupidly expensive olive oil and some sexy Parmesan cheese.  You will taste every penny you put into it.

Part One: Pesto

Pick the tips of the basil down to some of the larger leaves.  The darker/older the leaf, the stronger the taste in general.  Fall basil can get pretty pungent.  Pick a good handful and then some extra for another basil idea at the end.

Wash well, pat dry on a clean tea towel, pick the leaves off the stems and set aside for now.


Traditionally pesto was ground with a mortor and pestle.  Here is a Wikipedia article link if you'd like to investigate more.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pesto

I use the steel blade on my little food processor.


Add about equal parts of the best quality olive oil you can afford and raw pine nuts into the bowl with the steel knife.  You may use other nuts, they will change the taste and texture in interesting ways - try cashews, English walnuts, or macadamia nuts.

If you like garlic, add 1 - 3 peeled and smooshed cloves here.  Or for a milder flavor used roasted garlic*.

Whir until smooth-ish.

Chop Parmesan cheese into small slices.  Don't use that horrible powdered stuff.  Do get the best you can afford.  If you must, you can get the pre-shredded but it has various other ingredients on it to make it stay shredded and not clump up.


Add to the bowl and whir until roughly chopped.  There will be lots more chopping when the basil is added.  If you like a more chunky pesto, add the leaves first then the cheese.


A few leaves at a time, add the basil to the mixture with the blades running.  By doing a bit at a time the early leaves are really chopped really fine and later ones are a bit bigger.  I like it this way.

When it starts looking green, start tasting it.  You can adjust the flavor by adding more leaves or less.  Add salt to taste at this time as well.


After you have the flavor you like, add in a squeeze of lime to keep the color.  Basil likes to turn brown and a bit of acid helps keep it green.



Use up quickly.  If you must store it, put in a narrow glass jar and cover the top with olive oil.  That will keep it from browning or molding.  Refrigerate or freeze.

This recipe will work with just about any soft green herb.  I make a pesto with lemon balm and cashews for fish.  Crazy good.

Another idea: chop an extra basil leaves and mix with olive oil in a small narrow jar.  Cover with more olive oil.  Store in the refrigerator.  This will give you an intensely basil flavored oil that can be used for up to 6 months.  Use a drop or two on toast, in soups, or on meat.  A burst of summer!

 Next - making mashed potatoes!

 * Roasted garlic: Cut the top from a bulb of garlic, wrap tin foil around it but don't close it yet, pour some olive oil in the garlic, sprinkle with sea salt, seal the packet, bake in a 350 degree oven until soft.  Squeeze out and yum.




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